Illegal Immigration and Crime in Texas

Alex Nowrasteh, Andrew C. Forrester and Michelangelo Landgrave
Date of Publication: 
October, 2020
Source Organization: 
Cato Institute

This paper investigates the claim that unauthorized immigrants are more likely than the U.S.-born to engage in criminal activity. In the study, data from the Texas Department of Public Safety is used to shed light on immigrant criminality (Texas is the only state that records arrests and convictions by immigration status). Texas also has the second largest population of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., thus providing a large sample for analysis.  The key finding from the data is that undocumented immigrants have significantly lower crime rates than the U.S.-born; from 2012-2016, average criminal conviction rates for undocumented immigrants were 42 percent lower than those for the U.S.-born. Further, authorized immigrants had a criminal conviction rate 63 percent lower than the U.S.-born. On average, from 2012 through 2018, unauthorized and authorized immigrants were less likely to be arrested than the U.S.-born by 40 percent and 55 percent, respectively. The authors find that, rather than immigration status, the strongest predictor of higher crime rates is county population size: intuitively, “more people means more crime.” These results have important policy implications, calling into question the effectiveness of domestic immigration policies, like border wall construction or the greater allocation of resources to the Border Patrol, in actually lowering crime rates. (Lara Carbine for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Nowrasteh, A., Forrester, A. & Landgrave, M. (2020, October 13). Illegal Immigration and Crime in Texas. Cato Institute.